A Greenwood man was sentenced to 45 years in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to killing his wife and setting their home on fire.
Darrell Anthony Merritt, 55, pleaded guilty to murder and arson in front of Circuit Judge Frank Addy at the Laurens County Courthouse late Tuesday afternoon. Addy sentenced Merritt to 45 years in prison. The time must be served day-for-day; Merritt will not be eligible for parole.
Merritt shot his wife, 46-year-old Lisa Merritt, twice with a shotgun before setting their County Line Road home on fire and fleeing to a family member’s home in Anderson County. Prosecutors said Lisa Merritt had the mental capacity of a 10- to 12-year-old and was receiving services from the Burton Center at the time of her death.
Fire crews responded to County Line Road in the early morning hours of Nov. 29, 2012 after receiving an ADT call saying the smoke alarms were going off at the home. Emergency crews arrived moments later and saw smoke coming from the home. Firefighters forced entry into the home and discovered Lisa Merritt lying face down with no pulse. An autopsy later determined Lisa Merritt died as the result of the two gunshot wounds which erupted from Darrell Merritt’s 12-guage shotgun. After setting fire to the home, Darrell Merritt fled to Anderson County, throwing the weapon used in the killing off of a bridge along S.C. Highway 252 and into an unidentified river. Investigators were unable to recover the weapon.
A few short hours later, a family member of Darrell Merritt notified law enforcement that Darrell Merritt was with her and she was taking him to Anderson County authorities. Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office investigators met Anderson County authorities and brought Darrell Merritt back to Greenwood. Investigators said at the time that Darrell Merritt was cooperating with the investigation and had confessed to the crimes.
Public defenders Jana Nelson and Tom Aducci defended Darrell Merritt. Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo and assistant solicitor Elizabeth White handled the case for the state. Stumbo called the sentence a much needed message concerning domestic violence.
“Our state ranks first nationally in domestic homicides, so we must continue to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who do harm to members of their own household who they are supposed to protect,” said Stumbo. “We can only hope that this result will bring both a measure of closure to Lisa’s family members, who miss her terribly, and also send a strong message that domestic violence will no longer be tolerated in our communities.”